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PNS Daily News - June 28, 2017 


Here’s a look at what’s making headlines: Republicans scramble after a vote on health care delayed; a Clean Water Rule repeal comes under scrutiny; and a chemical in a common weed killer declared a carcinogen by California.

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Wisconsin Ag Institute Working On Better Organic Corn Seeds

Helping organic-corn farmers protect their investment in growing their crop by developing new and better organic corn seed is one of the ongoing research projects at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. (MFAI Photo)
Helping organic-corn farmers protect their investment in growing their crop by developing new and better organic corn seed is one of the ongoing research projects at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. (MFAI Photo)
June 19, 2017

EAST TROY, Wis. – Growing organic corn has always had its challenges, but researchers at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy are working on developing breeds specifically suited to help farmers who want to grow organic corn. These newer breeds have to be strong enough to compete with weeds for nutrition, resist pests and diseases, and adapt to changing conditions.

The institute's research director, Dr. Jim Stute, says one of the biggest challenges is developing organic seed corn that will resist contamination from cross-pollination with genetically modified corn. This is of critical importance when farmers sell their organic corn at a grain terminal.

"In organic production, you can't have GMO contamination," he says. "If you get pollen coming in from a transgenic crop, that gene shows up, and there are tests. If you come up hot for one of the traits, then you get rejected."

There is a huge difference in the market value of organic corn versus GMO corn. Stute says developing true-breeding GMO-free lines for organic agriculture is critical to the future of the organic industry.

According to Stute, one of the biggest problems organic-corn farmers face is cross-pollination with corn planted by non-organic farmers in nearby fields.

"Conventional wisdom is, you need to be 600 feet away from - if you're doing breeding work - 600 feet away from the nearest cornfield," he explains. "But experience says no, pollen will drift, especially if you get windy days and the right conditions, up to a quarter of a mile. So it can cause contamination."

Feeding organic corn is critical to the organic poultry and pork industries, so organic corn seed research has wide implications for the entire organic industry.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI